Posts Tagged ‘Character’

As a leader you are always on stage; someone is always watching you. And when you experience adversity, as you no doubt will, your people will be watching to see how you handle it. Will you react — instantly and from a place of emotion — or will you respond — from a place of thoughtfulness and intentionality?

Will you persevere or will you give up?

While we would all probably prefer to not go through the hard times, they are opportunities for growth and demonstration of what you’re really made of. They are opportunities to grow your influence. When you show you have what it takes to overcome obstacles, work through challenges, and succeed in your mission, you are   proving your worthiness to lead.

How you respond in these times will define your leadership more effectively than nearly anything else you do.

The key is, you get to decide.

Who will you be?

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By refusing to give up when life’s circumstances conspire against us, we powerfully model the value of perseverance.

Who is watching when you go through hard times in life?

How can you inspire them by the way you act?

What will they learn by watching you?

In 2002, I went through a life-changing leadership training program. During the five weeks I spent in this program, I was made aware that as a leader, one is always “on stage,” so to speak. Meaning, someone is always watching. Think of yourself as a role model, because you are influencing others around you about how to behave in certain situations.

So, will you teach them to persevere? Or to give up when times get tough?

You get to choose. I hope you choose wisely.

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As we near the end of week two, month six, look at the team of people working around you. What do you think are the most difficult aspects of their jobs?

As you consider this question, write down the top two or three biggest challenges you think they face.

Now, consider what simple actions could you take to help your co-workers persevere through the challenges of their daily work?

Plan it out and take action. You’ll make a huge difference in their day and you may be surprised by how good you feel…and how much easier it might now be for you to work through some of your own challenges.

The test of character is not ‘hanging in’ when you expect light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know no light is coming.   ~Admiral James Stockdale

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One day at a time, one step at a time. That’s what perseverance takes. Place one foot in front of the other, repeat; keep moving forward. Taking these small steps forward will help to counteract the headwinds of resistance.

Let’s take a journey back in time and consider the story of James Stockdale, American Prisoner of War (POW) in Vietnam. Commander Stockdale was a pilot during the Vietnam war. His plan was shot down and he parachuted into the jungle. Captured by the Vietcong, he spent seven years in the Hoa Lo prison, where the prisoners were subjected to severe brutality.

Despite his conditions and circumstances, Stockdale did not give in. In fact, he helped his fellow POWs remain strong by leading them through small but meaningful acts that helped them preserve their dignity.

One of his first initiatives was to devise a communication system the POWs could use to “talk” to each other, by tapping on the walls or floor. Before he arrived, captives had been isolates from each other and anyone who spoke was tortured by the guards. Thanks to Stockdale’s resourcefulness, the POWs could now communicate with each other and know they were not alone, as they endured their captivity.

He helped them persevere by creating a code of honor for POWs who were tortured. As you are probably aware, it was humiliating for American soldiers to give information to their captors. As the soldiers maintained their silence, their captors increased their extreme torture measures; and total silence typically led to a death sentence. Stockdale led the prisoners to a mutual pledge to resist as long as possible, and he gave them an outlet for confessing anything they had been forced to reveal. Through these simple confessionals, the soldiers unloaded their guilt, which allowed them to not be overcome with shame.

Today, think about your resourcefulness and how it could help someone else endure adversity. In your circle, who could you creatively support by giving them the encouragement they need to face another day?

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Folks: As you know, this month I am writing about perseverance, and while updating my Facebook page today, I came across this story from my friend and accountant, Rebecca Dimit. It struck me immediately as a tale of perseverance in many aspects. I asked her for permission to share it with you, and she graciously agreed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“For the past few months, my three year old son, JJ, has been planning (on his own) a suprise birthday fight for my dad’s birthday. So we decided to make the party a suprise also. In April, JJ loaded up a bag of toy weapons and took them to my parents for the fight. He has been very persistant about it. He decided it would be boys against girls. He even planned out who would have what weapon.  He was so excited when the day had finally arrived!  Apparently, JJ had inherited some of Dad’s vision and ability to plan details and patiently wait for things to fall into place.

My sister from NC was here with her 3 babies (3 and under) and my brother and I and our families and several of dad’s closest friends and family where in attendance at the birthday party that evening. We grilled out on the grill Dad LOVED and ate dinner outside (something Dad enjoyed so much).  After the meal, JJ ran inside to get the small arsenal of weapons he had collected and began distributing them. Even my baby neice, Claire, (almost 2) had a small plastic dagger to hold while on my hip. My mom played Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes. I lead the girls team from around the house running and shouting “Charge.” Mom continued to play while we “fought” with toy guns, swords, bow and arrows, baseball bats, etc to the beautiful ancient war music.  It was the most fun and fabulous birthday fight I have ever seen. After the battle, we had a moment of silence, then mom played Amazing Grace for the wounded.  Dad thought it was hilarious. 🙂  We got some video and great pictures of Dad with the family.

Later that night, we got all the kids to go to sleep and my sibilings and I sat around the kitchen table talking and laughing.  Mom finally wore out and went upstairs to bed at midnight.  She passed Dad in the hallway, they kissed.  He patted her on the butt (as he often did).  Then he sat down at the computer and Mom went to bed.  A few minutes later he had the stroke.  The last thing he heard was the laughter of his children and the sweet silence of knowing that we were all there in the house safe, happy, and loved.

He died quickly and practically painlessly.  My Dad had amazing vision and planned out every detail of everything.  He couldn’t have arranged a more perfect time for death. God arranged every detail perfectly.  Dad never gave up a fight.  He taught me to fight with determination and faith.  He was one of my closest friends and valued advisors, when I wanted to complete my college degree in less than the traditional length of time, he showed me how to obtain special permission to take more credit hours than the college allowed (after being denied by a few school officials) by encouraging to me keep fighting it until I got what I wanted.  He never stopped encouraging me to take the CPA exam and in the 13 years of that journey, he was the only one who told me not to give up on my dream.  He knew I could do it and I never would have if it weren’t for my Dad.

I respect my Dad and am so proud of him and his life.  He was anxiously anticipating his retirement. He had accomplished almost everything he set out to do for his life and was finally ready to rest.  In my soul, I  know that Dad is enjoying the best retirement ever now.  He didn’t get to buy the sports car he always wanted, instead he can soar through the clouds.  He didn’t get to travel the world with mom, instead he got to see the moon and stars.  He didn’t get to build his dream house, instead he is living in a mansion far more perfect and wonderful than he could have ever imagined.  He didn’t get the state position he often mentioned he wanted, instead he is now in kahoots with the very top dog.  I know Dad is in Heaven anticipating the arrival of each of us.  If he could talk to us, he would encourage us to keep fighting and never give up.  II Timothy 4:7-8 says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day…”  Wednesday, June 8’th, Dad finished his fight.  Even in his death he will be helping other people.  What more could a person ask for in death?

My six year old daughter, Lacey was sad at first, but yesterday she woke up and said with a big smile that she wasn’t sad anymore. She was so excited that Poppie was up in Heaven walking around with Jesus. 🙂  My neice Kylee had a similar reaction. Throughout their childhood, both the girls and JJ have been told often about how wonderful Heaven is with beautiful dresses, crowns, and castles. I wanted to nurture the beautiful image of Heaven and make it something they could anticipate in such an event as this.

I appreciate each of Dad’s friends and family so much and the love and support you have offered us during this time of grief. Thank you for your prayers, thoughts, and sympathy. We will need them over the years. We are a very close family so the pain is deep, but also, we have each other to lean on during this time and above all we have the comfort of knowing that Dad is finally getting the rest he has worked so hard for all his life.”

Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your story with all of us!

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The reality of leadership is that it requires hard work and regular investments of energy and sweat!

As a leader, there will be times when you encounter resistance. There will be times when you question whether the time, energy, and effort are worth it. There will be times when you feel like giving up. What you choose to do in your darkest moments will define you as a leader. When adversity comes to call, will you fade into the background or will you persist in fighting to move forward?

The truth is, nobody advances in leadership by coasting to the top. Leaders are distinguished by struggling upward through the daily grind.

Consider the story of Nelson Mandela. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to a life of hard labor in prison for his anti-apartheid convictions. For 18 years, he lived in a cramped cell and toiled in a rock quarry. Each year, he was allowed 30 minutes with a visitor and could receive and send only two letters. These were his only opportunities to communicate with the outside world.

It’s reasonable for you to assume that since I’m telling you his story as a lesson in perseverance, you already know what choices he made with respect to fading away — allowing some pretty depressing circumstances to alter the course of his life — or choosing to persist.

His perseverance and strength of character over those 18 years he was incarcerated earned him the respect of everyone, including his prison guards! Rather than drifting into obscurity while in prison, Mandela boosted his image while in prison. When he was released, he emerged with a higher profile than ever and leveraged his influence to bring about liberty and a democratic South Africa.

No small feats, indeed!

As we move into month six on our Intentional Leadership journey, take a few minutes to consider your responses to the following questions:

What unfavorable conditions are making your leadership difficult?

What steps can you take to remove or neutralize the sources of resistance on the job?

How might you grow stronger by enduring these hard times?

What rewards might you receive if you persevere through the toughest aspects of your job?

We will be digging deeper into these thoughts in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to working through them with you.

In the meantime, have an intentional day!

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If you weren’t able to join us on the Empowerment Mentoring Orientation call last night (14 May 2103), but are interested in listening to the recording, send me an email or leave a comment and I’ll send you the link.

If you’re interested in transforming your life, you want to be in this process with us!

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Who have you encountered on your journey who was clearly passionate about something, but whose passion and success was ruined by lack of principles. Who was this person?

What was he/she passionate about?

What happened to them?

What other consequences were there associated with their lack of principle?

What do you think led to that person’s downfall?

Now, make a 180-degree turn, and consider someone who was passionate and succeeded because they lived their passion through principle. Who was this person?

What was he/she passionate about?

What principles did they use as their foundation?

What impact did they have because of their passion?

What factors do you think led them to be able to successfully live out their passion?

What consequences were there associated with their principled behaviors?

How do these insights apply to you and your behavior as a leader living out your passion?

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What happens when passion is incongruent with principles?

Surely, any of us could recount numerous tales of leaders passionate about what they did, but were unprincipled in how they pursued their passion.

Consider Benedict Arnold. He was a general in the Revolutionary Army, and a distinguished general, at that. He was bold, daring, and creative. He earned the admiration of his fellow soldiers and countrymen. At one time, he was clearly a hero…especially in consideration of his performance at the Battle of Saratoga, widely regarded as the turning point in the War of American Independence.

Unfortunately, his drive was not supported by strong values. He was an egomaniac, needing the admiration, attention, and recognition of others, he was more focused on personal gain that on the welfare of his country. When he began to feel under-appreciated by his peers, he turned his attention to the British and conspired against the Americans. He went so far as to develop a wretched plot to surrender a strategic fort at West Point to the enemy. Fortunately, the plot was foiled.

He fled to the British side and died unceremoniously in England, known as America’s most notorious traitor.

What is the motivation behind your passion?

What drives you to be a leader?

How strong are the values that form your foundation?

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Thursday, again, already?! Wow!

Time for some reflection…

We’ve been focusing on excellence all month, and perhaps you’ve already come to this place, but I’m curious. What is your motivation for pursuing excellence?

How will a life of excellence impact others?

What motivation will sustain you to pursue excellence day-in and day-out?

I’ve given this some thought, as while I realize this will sound trite, for me, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If I’m going to exchange my time and life energy — both of which I can never get back — I want whatever I spent it on to have meaning and value, and not just for me, but for the others around me, as well.

As I have said on several occasions, I am here to change the world through encounters with people each and every day. I can’t do that without doing what I’m doing at a high level of performance. Well, I suppose I could, but my quest is to change the world in a positive way, and that takes focus, attention, intention, energy, and effort.

I remember being told, by at least three different people, at three different jobs (yes, this is absolutely true!), that I could “relax now…and not work so hard.” I asked each of those people to describe to me what that would look like or be like, because I wasn’t sure what they were attempting to guide me to do. You see, I was working at what I consider “normal Laura level,” not in comparison to anyone else. I wasn’t sure what “relaxing” would mean. None of them were able to describe it for me. I still don’t know.

I want to make a difference. I want to set a positive example. I strive to leave things better than when I found them. And, when I leave a place, I want the people I encountered to say I did my share; I did quality work; and the place was better for my having been there.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this topic?

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